Accessing leaked Ashley Madison info could be privacy breach

With a NZ lawyer purported to be tied up in the Ashley Madison scandal, a leading Auckland barrister discusses the implications the leak could have.

A New Zealand lawyer is among those tied up in the Ashley Madison leak, according to media reports.
On Wednesday hackers followed through with a threat to release a huge amount of data, including personal information, about the users of the website, which targets adulterers.
According to The New Zealand Herald, the data included information from 22861 users in Auckland (84 per cent of which are male), 11126 in Wellington (85 per cent of which are male), 11048 in Christchurch (87 per cent of which are male) and 4634 in Dunedin (86 per cent of which are male).
The leaked information also featured 32 email addresses from NZ government agencies as well as email addresses for council staff, youth workers, health professionals and a lawyer.
“In terms of privacy, the difficulty is that the New Zealand Privacy Act doesn’t apply extraterritorially,” barrister Chris Patterson told NZLawyer.
“These hackers aren’t based in New Zealand. But, if you dig into the deep web, and you happen to get your hands on the list, and you’re in New Zealand – then you are gathering private information about New Zealand citizens in New Zealand, and the Privacy Act could apply.
“Any agency that collects information, under the privacy principles, should be collecting it from the individual, or be getting their consent to collect that information.
“If you know that there is a list that has New Zealanders names on it, and you go out and grab that list, you could potentially be breaching the Privacy Act.”
A major concern Patterson had about the leak was the potential for blackmail.
“There is a real potential there for that information to be used to support a threat. And I suspect that is one of the fears of New Zealand users of that site – that they may become subject to a blackmail threat….usually that sort of information is used for some motive of gain.”
Anyone subjected to blackmail as a result of the leak should refer it to police immediately, he said.

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